Self-help books have such a stigma, and I don’t know why — except, I’m one of the many people who contributed to it. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but I used to proudly state that I was open to trying almost all genres… except self-help. I look back on my younger self, shocked at the arrogance that statement took: I know I wasn’t convinced that I was perfect. Why, then, did I look on this genre with such disdain? I look back and think, "I should have been reading all the self-help books I could get my hands on!"
Whatever the reason, I’ve changed my tune drastically in the past few years. I read a lot of self-help books because I enjoy being on a quest to improve myself. I’m constantly trying to understand myself better: Why do I react to things the way I do? How can I love a happier, more fulfilled, and more productive life? Why do certain things make me uncomfortable and how can I challenge myself to be better? Here’s a list of books that, whether you’re a self-help skeptic or an avid devotee, will help you start making sense of your life.
1. 'How to Be a Bawse' by Lilly Singh
Lilly Singh is one of those celebrities who is uber famous within her circle, but many outside of it haven’t even heard of her. If you haven’t, take a second to look her up — seriously, last year, she was the highest-paid female star on YouTube. Her book dishes on how she achieved success, but also her struggles with depression and imposter syndrome. Each chapter contains one piece of advice, and they’re short — just a page or two — and flanked by awesome pictures. Seriously, as a book nerd, I was so thrilled at how nice this book looks and feels (and oh yeah, there’s also some killer advice inside).
2. 'An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth' by Chris Hadfield
Chris Hadfield made history as one of the first astronauts to go viral (specifically, with his video singing and playing guitar aboard the International Space Station). When it came time to write a memoir (which I personally think all astronauts should do), he decided to structure it in the form of a self-help book. In it, he discusses life lessons he learned as a result of being an astronaut, and offers some bits of wisdom we all could use.
3. 'Daring Greatly' by Brene Brown
It seems almost like cheating to include Brene Brown on this list because she is the queen of self-help (or, at least, my queen of self-help), but if you haven’t read any of her books, this is where I recommend you start. This book centers on the premise that we should all be a little more vulnerable in our daily lives. Pretending we’re perfect (like, say, a person pretends they don’t need to read self-help books) isn’t going to get us anywhere in life. Instead, face your weaknesses and be honest about your failures; you’ll be a better leader, and a better person, for it.
4. 'Emotional Agility' by Susan David
If you’ve read Brene, I recommend following it up with Susan David’s excellent book focusing on emotions and how we react to things. Our emotions govern how we respond to various events in our lives, from major to minor, and we often get stuck in repeating patterns. David recommends we become unstuck from these patterns by recognizing them for what they are and accepting them. It’s not about stopping feelings—feelings exist, there’s nothing wrong with that—it’s about recognizing the part they play in our decision making and seeing things with clear eyes.
5. 'Year of Yes' by Shonda Rhimes
As an introvert, I cannot tell you how much Year of Yes resonated with me. Shonda Rhimes, basically the queen of all TV, is an introvert too. And she constantly was declining media appearances and opportunities that would further her own goals and help her develop herself because, when it came down to it, she was afraid. So Rhimes’ sister challenged her to, for one year, say yes to the unexpected, and it changed Shonda’s life. This book isn’t about saying yes to everything (that would honestly be the most terrible miserable thing for an introvert). Instead, it’s about balance and reacting from a place of wisdom and experience, rather than fear.
6. 'The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck' by Sarah Knight
You thought I was going in an other direction with this recommendation, don’t you? I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book, but it’s this one that really made a difference for me. It doesn’t advocate being wholly selfish — but it does help you give yourself permission to be a little selfish. As women, we’re trained to be people pleasers, to push down what we want in favor of what would be best for others. Knight tells us, basically, that you need to decide what you give a f*ck about. If you decide you don’t care about a thing—then don’t care about it. It seems so simple, but it’s truly brilliant.
7. 'Living With Intent' by Mallika Chopra
We all hear about how meditation is beneficial, but it can be a difficult thing to put into practice every day (I am currently in an “on again” status with meditation, having spent YEARS finding a form that works for me). I was inspired by Chopra’s journey (yes that Chopra, daughter of Deepak) to find more balance and calm in her life. I especially appreciated this because, while you might expect the daughter of such a renowned figure to be calm and at peace, her life is just as crazy as the rest of ours.
8. 'The Little Book of Hygge' by Meik Wiking
I love soft things — clothes, blankets, pillows — but I never realized how they contributed to my happiness and overall sense of well-being until I read this little book. Being physically comfortable is so underrated, yet so important. The Little Book of Hygge celebrates how we can bring more joy and contentment into all our lives. If there’s one thing we all need right now, it’s more happiness in our own little worlds.